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Connacht Team Named For Crunch Home Clash With Wasps

Connacht Team Named For Crunch Home Clash With Wasps

The Connacht team to face Wasps at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 5.30pm) features four personnel changes to the side that lined out in Coventry five days ago. 

With Stacey Ili sidelined through injury, 22-year-old Rory Parata is named in the centre for his first Champions Cup start, while Ireland international Matt Healy comes on to the left wing for the injured Cian Kelleher.

Up front, Ireland prop Finlay Bealham packs down with Denis Buckley and hooker Tom McCartney. The back row is reshuffled with the introduction of Eoin McKeon at blindside flanker, while Nepia Fox-Matamua shifts to openside in the absence of injured Jake Heenan.

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From the bench, Fijian international Naulia Dawai is in line to make his Connacht debut having arrived at the province last month. The 29-year-old is one of six forwards named among the replacements with Caolin Blade and Danie Poolman the only two remaining backs available for selection from the EPCR-registered squad.

Commenting on the team selection and the rematch with Wasps, Connacht head coach Pat Lam said: “With only nine fit backs available to us this week, it’s forced me to name a 6-2 split on the bench for the first time with Caolin Blade having to cover the out-half position.

“So, with those injuries as well as the short turnaround, it’s been a fairly light week in terms of physical preparation out on the pitch. We’ve put a big emphasis on our mental prep and ensuring that we are all crystal clear in terms of what we need to do tomorrow afternoon.

“Without a doubt, this game is massively important in the context of our European ambitions. Win and we’re back at the top of the pool and in a really good place after four rounds. That’s the outcome we all want, but it’s all about the performance first and foremost.”

Connacht’s injury list currently includes the aforementioned Ili, Kelleher and Heenan as well as Ronan Loughney, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ivan Soroka, Conan O’Donnell, Ben Marshall, Andrew Browne, Eoghan Masterson, John Cooney, Marnitz Boshoff, Shane O’Leary, Craig Ronaldson, Peter Robb, Eoin Griffin, Cormac Brennan, Josh Rowland and Darragh Leader.

As part of his contract and release deal from Wasps, second row James Cannon is not permitted to play in the Champions Cup fixtures against Wasps.

CONNACHT (v Wasps): Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Rory Parata, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Eoin McKeon, Nepia Fox-Matamua, John Muldoon (capt).

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, JP Cooney, Conor Carey, Lewis Stevenson, Sean O’Brien, Caolin Blade, Danie Poolman, Naulia Dawai.